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Fire destroys Harry O. Brown store in Kobuk

October 6th 12:20 pm | Shady Grove Oliver Print this article   Email this article  

A fire last week destroyed the Harry O. Brown store in Kobuk, leaving just two stores in the small community with winter on the way.

"We got a call about 2:30 a.m., so I got up and went to help," said local resident Henry Horner. "There were guys already fighting the blaze."

The volunteer crew used pumps to bring in water from both the river and a hydrant.

Illuminated only by a few small headlamps, a four-wheeler's headlights, and the fire itself, they worked hard through the night and were were able to keep it from spreading, and ultimately put it out.

The following morning, residents could see the full extent of the damage to the Harry O. Brown store, which was a log cabin Horner said was built in the 1960s.

Pictures show severe damage to the front of the store, owned by local Roberta Jackson, with blackened logs and broken windows. The sides of the structure kept their original color.

"[The] inside ceiling [was] damaged, so it is a total loss," said Horner.

Judging by how the fire burned the exterior of the building, Horner said it may have started outside. However, there's no way to know until a cause is determined by the fire marshal.

Just 11 months ago, a property fire destroyed another small store in the community. Raenbow Cash & Carry, owned by Gary King, burned alongside a home and a cabin.

This past spring, a Wasilla man opened Sally's, which helped fill the gap left by Raenbow. It's now one of only two left in town after the most recent fire, the other being the Kobuk Store.

Every time a store is lost, it's a blow to the local economy, residents say.

With extremely limited options in town for purchasing goods, supplies, and produce, many locals have turned to mail or online ordering to fill their needs. That means profits are often going to large web-based companies like Amazon, or to big box stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, keeping cash flow outside the village economy.

It's not known yet whether or not the owner will be able to restore or rebuild the Harry O. Brown store in the months to come.


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